Thursday, September 9, 2010

First Days

Jambo! (Hello!)
I’m here at Moyo Hills in Karatu Tanzania and am awed and blown away more and more by the second. We arrived in the Nairobi airport as expected on Monday at 7:50am (for future reference I will be using East Africa time… for East Coast time just subtract 7 hours…) but surprise, surprise we got to sit in the airport for another day to wait for our flight to Tanzania. We ended up landing in Arusha around 8:00pm and drove an hour to a hotel; we didn’t go straight to Moyo Hills because only 7 out of our 50 bags came in with our flight (I was one of the lucky ones because one of the seven was one of my bags!) We left the following morning in the Safari Jeeps while the big truck went back to get our bags from the airport. After driving about 3 hours and seeing great scenery and quick glimpses of Tanzanian town life, PLUS three giraffe (!!), some zebra (!!), and some baboons with their babies on their back (!!) we arrived at base camp in Moyo Hills!
It is so beautiful here! It’s not flat like I had imagined, but there are beautiful MOUNTAINS and green vegetation with colorful flowers all over. We are the first group to stay at the SFS camp in Moyo Hills; the camp was actually built within the last month and a half! There are 5 Bandas (basically cabins) each with two rooms and two bathrooms and that can accommodate up to 8 people. There are only 6 girls in my Banda (which is named Kifaru… not quite sure what that means yet) and I am rooming with two other girls in my room. The Chumba is in the center of the camp and that is where the kitchen is and where we eat meals and hang out during free time. We have a separate building for the actual SCHOOL part (the part I kinda forgot about in all my excitement of actually getting here!) where there is a computer room, a library (which is just a room with chairs and a stack of books, haha) and our main classroom. We met with our Professors today; there are 5 of them and I’m very impressed with how educated they all are! They have been to years and years of school and are still learning through their studies. They are extremely inspirational and I look forward to learning from them over the next 6 weeks we are here. Besides our Professors, there are about 25 other Tanzanian (or other African) staff members that work and reside here. I was lucky enough to be on breakfast crew this morning and got clean dishes, twice (my favorite, I know!) but liked seeing the difference from kitchen life in America to kitchen life here at camp. It’s a challenge learning all of the staff’s names… but I think they are struggling to learn ours as well, so it is easy to laugh at our attempts to pronounce everything correctly.
We actually learned some Swahili greetings today and got to go to town (Karatu) to practice them. It’s such an amazing experience to go and meet complete strangers, try to communicate with them, and realize how different our lives are from theirs. I have two highlights from this visit to town today; first was watching my friend Caitlin, who is tall, blonde, and blue eyed, beat a local man in arm wrestling THREE times (it was a riot to say the least)! Second was walking back to camp with local boys that had just got out of school and getting really excited at the opportunity we have to be able to be language buddies; they want to learn English more than we want to learn Swahili (actually they kept asking WHY we would want to learn Swahili if no one spoke back in our “country of origin”, haha!). I talked to a boy named John who is 21 like me (we bonded over that because everyone was younger than us) and was astounded to hear that he still has 4 more years until he graduates secondary school. And I already want to take back some children with me, there are the CUTEST two little boys in town, I have dubbed them “the Sams” (Samuel and Samson).
I really like the group of people in my program. There are 29 of us from ALL over the country (but I’m the only one from VT, I repped the B&Js shirt today, woot woot!) with all sorts of different backgrounds but it is easy to see that we are all very similar in that we all have personalities and interests that lead us to this program, it’s comforting. There are plenty of things that we can do as a group, the staff put up a volleyball net yesterday and we spent a good deal of time playing that before dinner today, which reminds me of how GOOD the food is here! For example, we had soft tacos tonight, they were absolutely amazing. I haven’t had a meal yet that I didn’t liked and am beginning to worry about gaining weight if I don’t start exercising, so much for the “Africa diet”! There a quite a few vegetarians (even two vegans) so there are plenty of veggies and fruits which are great. We have our own water at camp that goes through an intense filtration process, so we can drink right from the tap. We even have flushing toilets and warm showers (if we wait long enough for the water to get warm) so it’s a lot more luxurious then what I had thought. But as we are in East Africa there is a shortage of water so we just had a sustainability committee meeting to discuss ways we can limit our water use as well as our electricity use and wastes.
The only thing that I don’t like here is how paranoid my malaria medication is making me! For orientation our SAM (Student Affairs Manager, basically our advisor), Erica has been going over possible dangers we could encounter and ever since the discussion about snakes and scorpions I have been on edge! Last night I woke up twice to poke the netting around my bed to make sure there were no creepy crawlies crawlin’ all over. One of the girls has been in Africa for the past few years and when I told her this she laughed and asked what medicine I was taking and said that it was common for this happen. Just hearing that makes me feel better, and I think my paranoia will only be bad on the days that I actual take the pill because I’ve been fine today, we’ll see if I wake up to do some net poking tonight.
Speaking of tonight… it’s 12:15am over here now and when you have to wake up for breakfast at 7:00 to go to a day full of class that’s pretty late. Plus I’m still tired from jetlag and times changes and what not. And my computer battery just started flashing at me (thanks Zeth, this battery is mucho better than my old one… which is bad for you haha). So I will call it a night and say Kewhari (which I think means goodbye, but don’t quote me!) until next time (which will probably be every four days as that is how we have allotted the wireless internet between all of us.)OH, btw [by the way - for you old folk!] I'm going to get a phone... I'll let you know my number and can tell you right now that the best time you can call me is from 2:30-4:30 East Coast time... I guess texting is possible too? It's fairly cheap for me to call you all, but if you want to call me the cheapest way is to call me via Skype (I've heard it's about $2.00 a minute...).
I love and miss you all and please do me a favor and send all your love and positive thought my very dear friend, Mac Pratt’s way. Love you girl!
xoxoxo Z

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